At Rey De Copas, there had been a small Chinese lady who came in and walked around, selling flowers. She showed up both nights I was there, and I remember thinking how out of place she looked, selling flowers to men who hoped to get lucky, and women who were there to make some cash.

At Madeline’s bar in Brooklyn, I swear I saw the same woman, but of course she couldn’t have been. She had the same built, same tired face. Same white bucket full of flowers she was trying to sell. It was better than begging for change, but not by much.

Dancing at the bar wasn’t nearly as profitable as I had hoped. It also took a serious toll on my psyche. I had to always be on guard for men who were looking for sexual favors or tried to manhandle me. One guy refused to dance with me unless I’d let him feel on my ass so I walked away. Another guy offered me money for a blowjob. When I refused he asked if I’d do it for free.

It didn’t help that one of the regular ladies there, an older woman who’d done this kind of work all her life and whose daughter also worked there, would let guys feel her up and finger her. On my first night there a guy did just that and had his boys take pictures of him with one hand up her skirt and another throwing up peace signs.

This made it harder to make cash, among other things. I wasn’t there to be felt up and I don’t like beer, but I love to dance, and all I wanted was for someone to dance with me. But that was also a problem. If I danced, I would often find myself negotiating prices after the music was over, and more often than not the guys disagreed. And I couldn’t dance if the bar was empty, which kept happening more often than not.

Within a week of my starting there, the owner had opened another location, and business was super slow. There were nights that only a handful of people showed up, and they were not interested in dancing or buying us drinks.

To cut corners, the owner lowered the nightly rate from $50 to $40, $30 if we showed up past 11 PM. The difference was significant. Every dollar I made counted. I was driving from the Bronx to Brooklyn nightly, which was costing me about $20 in gas every two nights. I never had enough cash on hand to fill up the tank, and while I was driving both myself and Madeline, she never offered to spot me for gas, and I never asked.

While I was still filling out job applications during the day, I still needed the cash. A freelance job Todd had set me up with didn’t pan out, and I finally caved and began the process to claim unemployment.

In the meantime I tried to ham it up at the bar as much as I could. I still owed Madeline rent for the month of September, and I hadn’t made any payments on my car. So I went all out.

The rent was due

To distract me, the boys took me apple picking that September. We went to upstate New York and Todd and I drove.

We had a lot to eat. I felt guilty that I couldn’t put more than $10 towards the food but the guys reassured me by reminding me that I drove. Still, Todd put down most of the money.

We were a little early for the season so we had to climb further up the hill to find ripe apples. Al was lagging behind.

Dying, some would say 

He was actually starting to get the flu, but someone didn’t get the hint, and spent then entire time taking selfies off his stomach. 

Guess who?

And just downright all up in his personal space.

I’m a cuddler. 

The next day I was sick as a dog. I spent the entire day in bed, coughing until I ran out of breath and passing out. When I still didn’t feel well a day later, I actually felt worse, I called Todd and asked him to bring me medicine. I couldn’t even afford NyQuil.

I remember begging Madeline over text to make me oatmeal. I couldn’t even get up to make myself a bowl of cereal. She refused, said we were out of sugar, but I went to the kitchen later that night and saw quickly that it wasn’t true.

Still, when it came to going back to the bar, I got dressed, I grabbed a large scarf and I drove, and I sat in a booth with my cell phone charging and waited until 4 AM until I could go home again, all for $40. I accrued all the cash I had left, after food and paying for gas every couple of nights, and I made my car payment. 
This, I’m sure, made Madeline mad. I still owed her rent for September, and I think she half expected me to give her the cash. But my car was more important. It was what was getting us to Brooklyn every night, and we argued about it. I pointed out that she wasn’t making any money either, that I was still filling out job applications during the days. I pointed out how sick I had been the last couple of days but I still went with her. Still, this wasn’t enough. 
Towards the end of September, she started letting a blind man, a friend of the family, stay with us in the apartment, albeit in the boys room. His daughter would spend most days in the apartment and Madeline asked her to help the kids with their homework instead of me. The writing was on the wall. 
Two days before the month ended Madeline told me I had to leave because Housing was going to inspect the apartment. I recognized the lie, but said nothing. Instead I made a few calls. Tati was the first to respond and invited me to live with her. Since I no longer had to drive to White Plains everyday, I could live with Tati without issue. 
That night, I packed my bags while Madeline argued over the phone with her ex. The kids were being rowdy and misbehaved. It was embarrassing for him, especially when his new wife’s children could follow direction the first time. Madeline’s kids were rowdy and immature in comparison. I listened while Madeline cried. 
Up until then I had hoped that Madeline and I could become friends. During the long drives to Brooklyn I tried to bond with her and asked about her oldest daughter, the one she never liked to talk about. It didn’t matter. I was a means to an end. When I left, it was the kids who helped me carry my things downstairs. Madeline was nowhere to be found. It was better that way.